Category Archives: Method Leadership

Stiffness is Death

Organizational leadership takes place in one of two contexts.

Either…

The organization is heading to new heights – it’s a start-up, or an existing organization that’s reached a plateau.  It needs a Visionary to take it to new and uncharted territory.

Or…

The organization is sinking in the depths; in the shit, as it were.  It needs a strong and resolute leader with experience and courage to save it.  It needs a Savior.

The expertise required may be different, and the motivation for each may vary, but each role still requires the same fundamental leadership attributes:   independence (to judge and make decisions); people skills (to engage, delegate, and motivate); expertise (to know what to do and how to do it); and passion (to care enough to make the effort and stay the course).

Some would argue that there is a third context, the organization that’s just humming along, neither growing, nor under threat.  I would counter that if an organization is not growing, it’s stagnating.  And if its stagnating, it’s dying.   It’s competitors will soon take its position.  If there are none, there soon will be.  Such an organization better be lead by a Visionary soon, or it will need a Savior soon.

Here’s the thing… it’s occurring to me now, as of course it would, that those two contexts, let’s call them “fighting to survive” and “scaling new heights” are mirrored in our own individual lives.  The vicissitudes of life are such that we are either overcoming challenges, emotional and/existential, that is, we’re working to save or preserve some value or values that we already possess, or; we’re working to create for ourselves and those we love some new values.  The in-between, the drifting along without significant challenge (time for R&R notwithstanding), is as dangerous for an individual as it is for an organization.  Don’t move and you’ll get stiff. And, as my Sifu is fond of saying, “stiffness is death”.

Where is your organization at?  And how about you?  Struggling to remain a going concern or pursuing exciting new challenges?

Remember, the status-quo is dangerous, because the Universe never stands still.  So, neither should you, and neither should the organization(s) you’re a part of.

Developing Good Leaders – a couple comments

In response to the post from a few days ago, “Why developing leaders is hard and the two most powerful ways to go about it“, Kurt Häusler (@Kurt_Haeusler) commented:

“Both assume good leadership is already in place, nearby and available. It also encourages emulation over improvement.”.

[If you’ve not read the post already, maybe take a couple minutes to do so, just click up there ↑ and it will open in a new tab.]

Without getting bogged down in polemics, here are my thoughts on this.

Integral to being (or becoming) a good leader, is the trait of helping others to develop their own leadership skills.  We are all in (or should be in) the business of helping those around us to be their best.  You don’t need to be a titled leader to have (or to want to have) leadership skills.  Method Leadership is about the fundamental leadership skills that enhance every individual’s life, not just the performance of those with formal leadership titles.

So, inspiring those around you to improve their leadership skills by providing a positive example and by providing learning opportunities whenever you’re able does not require that you yourself are already a “good leader”, only that you want to develop your own leadership capabilities.  In fact, that very point reinforces the self-driven nature of leadership development.

As to “emulation over improvement”; they are not mutually exclusive.  If by emulation one means “monkey see, monkey do” then yes, that would be fairly pointless.  But in regard to complex human behavior, copying is one of the fundamental ways humans learn.  Setting a good example for others is absolutely vital to good leadership.  Nothing is worse than the leader (or person) who says one thing and does another.

To this day, when faced with some leadership challenge or other, I sometimes find myself asking, “what would X do?”; reaching back to the example of the few good mentors I have been lucky enough to work or be associated with.

I am so, so, grateful to have had the good example of some exceptional people.  From some I learned to think, to reason, to make better decisions;  others had a magic way with people; one taught me the humility to recognize that learning is never done, and can be found in the most unlikely of situations; and all, bar none, provided me with the example of unstinting effort – the passion to initiate, to drive on despite obstacles, and to never rest on one’s laurels.

Did I emulate these individuals.  Yes, absolutely, and proudly.

So, let me reiterate.  Developing your leadership skills comes from you, and an important aspect of leadership is inspiring others to develop themselves too.  Set a great example, and follow great examples.  Provide learning and development opportunities for others, and grasp them for yourself whenever you can.

Both of these things are vastly more powerful, (because fundamental and a priori), to any formal leadership training and/or development.  They are, in fact, foundational.

Cheers to @Kurt_Haeusler for the prompt.

 

Why developing leaders is hard and the two most powerful ways to go about it.

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT, which fundamentally is the improvement in an individual’s ability to take the lead and in their people skills, must start from, and be driven by, the learner.  Leadership is an individual endeavor.  Not solitary, but individual.

This is one of the reasons leadership development programs are so often a waste of time and money.  You cannot impose upon someone to develop as a leader.  The light bulb has got to want to change, as the old joke goes.

But all is not lost.  Here are two powerful ways to inspire a desire in others to develop themselves.

Provide a positive example.

Show that an active dedication to the traits of good leadership – thinking independently, dealing justly with others, constantly learning, and going at life passionately – works.  By “works”, I mean is the path to success and happiness.  Your example will work as a motivator, and will provide a kind of preview.

When a young individual with loads of potential is characterized as a “natural leader”, it’s not because they were born special; it’s because they had in early life the right kind of example, usually one or both parents, showing them what successful living looks like (a “negative example” might also create leadership, but likely comes with significant scarring).

Provide adhoc learning opportunities, not just formal.

By adhoc I mean leveraging everyday situations to encourage the taking of initiative and responsibility.  Encourage thinkingDelegate properly, teach, show, allow observation and encourage questions.  This is what mentoring is all about, and it works faster and surer than just about anything else.

Yes, you can and should offer more formal learning opportunities – courses, seminars, eLearning, core training, books, and the like – but make them voluntary, and not free.  Cheap, perhaps, but not free.  “User Pays” is a great way to separate wheat from chaff, and out-of-pocket expense is an added motivation to fully engage.  Real values need to be earned.  Contrary to popular belief, free stuff does not taste better.

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Caveat Emptor in the Market Place of Ideas

EVERYTHING IS A TRADE.  From buying a car to reading a book, from taking a class to engaging in a conversation, everything you do involves trading some value of yours for some value you hope to gain.  You always hope to make a profit.  That is, you always hope that what you get back exceeds the value you put in.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Everything right in fact.  Even if all you’re doing is giving your time, that is still a value to you, perhaps the most valuable commodity you possess, and you need to spend it wisely.  Profit is not a dirty word.

Give up time and money to take a class, your profit is to get smarter.  Give time to help a friend move house, your profit is the enjoyment of company, the satisfaction of hard work, and the value of friendship.  Put years of blood, sweat, & tears into a start-up, your profit is to come away with a great product, pride in a job well done, and hopefully some wealth you can use to enjoy or invest.  Spend your hard-earned capital on a new widget, you profit by having a useful/beautiful/enjoyable thing that makes you happy.

Now, the first rule of any trade is Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware.  Are you getting what you think you’re getting?  Check, check, check.  When you shop, invest, even barter, no doubt you’re pretty good at this.  We’ve all become pretty savvy when it comes to spending money.  Sadly, there’s too many crooks about not to be careful.

In the realm of ideas though… mmm, that’s another thing altogether.  In the realm of ideas, cheats, frauds, incompetents, and fools rule the roost.  In the realm of ideas, the truth is more often than not hidden in the shadows cast by towers of bullshit.

So why is it that so many people blindly accept lies, fabrications, distortions, and mistakes, without so much as a cursory reference to the facts – the evidence?

Is it because:

We place too much respect in “experts”?

We’re too obedient to “authority”?

We believe what we want to; what makes us feel good, or safe, or reassured?

We wear the “blinders of tradition”?

We fall for “Brand Traps”?*

I don’t know.  If you do, please fill me in.  In the meantime, remember this:  the power any lie has over you… comes from you.  Flick the switch of reason, check the facts – the evidence – and the light of truth exposes lies and sends liars scurrying.  When it comes to ideas, especially the big ones, ask yourself this:  “Have I bought the truth?”

*(hat-tip to Jens at LeanSelf)

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Related reading:

Who do you trust?

Who do you trust?

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Why good leadership and happiness are linked, and how you can have both.

THOSE OF YOU who’ve been reading this blog for a while will know that I don’t see good leadership as having followers, but rather as a set of attributes that bring success not only to titled-leaders, but to anyone who embodies them.  Independence, People Skills, Expertise, and Passion enable anyone to be successful, not just those in positions of formal authority.

No one has contradicted my claim in this, but I suspect some are not convinced.  If you’re in that latter group, perhaps the following list will help.

Good Leader Poor Leader

Would you agree that these parameters fairly sum up a good leader versus a poor leader, even if individual cases are often not so clear cut?

Yes?

Now look at the lists again.  The only change is in the headings:

Happy Person Unhappy Person

Our goal at Method Leadership is to present a framework for learning, practicing, and mastering these vital life skills or attributes, not because they make for better leaders (which they do and which we sorely need), but because they are vital to everyone’s happiness.  Yours.  Mine.  His.  Hers.

The more happy people on this planet, the better off we’ll all be.  Ask yourself this:  if Hitler had been a happy person, would he have followed the course he did?  Ditto for Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and sundry other murderous villains.  And crime?  Crime, that is, the initiation of physical force against other human beings (whether by violence, theft, or fraud), is simply not something that truly happy and contented people do.

So let’s all get happy.  It’s not that hard, really.  Think for yourself, engage people justly, always be learning, commit to creating value.  That’s it… hey presto.  Happy.

Now, one more look at that list.  Actually, maybe you could print it, save it to a device, or copy it out.  Then circle whichever lines apply.

Iam happy I am unhappy

How did you do?  If there are things you need to work on, no matter.  You’re not alone.  The key is to take stock, make a plan, take action, and be committed to creating the character, and leader, of whom you are proud.  Success and happiness will follow.

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We’ll be moving over to a self-hosted site soon.  If you’d like to stay up-to-date with new posts, and the soon-to-be released eLearning program, please hit the subscribe button.  Your email is safe with me and you’ll never be spammed.  I’ll always do my best to provide you with great value.

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Your organisation has a Vision. Do you?

THE definition of leadership is:
Leadership-Definition

It’s not by accident that the first clause is about what you are setting out to achieve.  It all starts with that.

Good leadership is founded on vision.

That term, “Vision”, is a bit over-used, and therefore perhaps compromised, sullied, clichéd, but it still fits.  Good leaders don’t accept what is, they create what should be.  The “what should be” is the vision.

Now here’s the thing:  everyone needs a Vision.  More than one, actually.

To quote our “What is…” page:

Leadership-Success-Coincidence
One of those attributes, the most important one, is an independent mind.  A mind (and Soul), that looks at the world in its own unique way, and says:

“What do I want to achieve and how will I do that?”

Creating a Vision for yourself, in fact, a vision for all the major values you’re pursuing in life, is essential.  As somebody wise once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?”.

Visions change, grow, are achieved, replaced; but make no mistake, we all need them.  Success, (and the happiness it brings), depends on achieving values.  Your visions of the values you’re out to achieve are not only your guide (like that mythical star), your Visions are your chief motivators too.  When the going gets tough, a powerful, well crafted Vision – one you can almost taste, it’s so real – will keep you moving, allowing you to maintain momentum.

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Momentum, a fine concept, and the subject of the next post.  See you in a couple of days.

What went wrong, and how to do better next time

NEXT time something doesn’t go the way you planned, no matter the scale, (a business failure, a disagreement, a poor restaurant experience, a trip over the curb, an interaction with an employee or colleague), don’t beat up on yourself.  Instead, stop and ask yourself two questions:

1.  What went wrong?

2.  What could I have done differently that would have made for a better outcome?

Don’t stop at the first reason you find, nor at the first “better way” that comes to mind.  Neither causes nor best practices are always immediately apparent, so a bit of deep thinking can reveal underlying causes and innovative solutions.

Small things won’t need much thinking,  (you tripped because talking on the phone, so next time, don’t walk and talk), while spectacular failures will take time to assess.  And often, bigger and more troubling mistakes or failures need some distance in time before you gain a broad and rational perspective.  Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Then, when you know what went wrong and what you could have done, make a commitment to yourself that when faced with a similar circumstance, you’ll try the new approach.

Make this a habit and you’ll never really experience mistakes or failures, just learning opportunities on the road to success.

And imagine what it will do for your self-doubt?